Posted on June 16, 2004
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is co-sponsor of an amendment to modify and enhance the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA). The amendment to the Department of Defense reauthorization bill was introduced today by Sens. Jim Bunning (R-KY) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and approved by the Senate. "This amendment will fulfill the intent of the original law enacted in 2000," said Alexander during remarks delivered on the Senate floor. "It will provide our Cold War veterans compensation and medical benefits much sooner. "This is a serious matter for a great many Tennesseans and Americans. We should be treating our Cold War veterans with the same respect that they have treated our country and their employment." Tennessee has over 4,800 claims filed under subtitle D of EEOICPA with the Department of Energy (DOE). As of March 18, 2004, 60 percent of these cases were still awaiting action by DOE. This amendment will transfer the responsibility of claims processing from the DOE to the Department of Labor (DOL). DOL currently runs several workers compensation programs. The proposed changes will provide uniform medical benefits, which are some of the largest costs for living claimants. It will also allow a large number of claimants in the process to receive compensation much sooner. Each claimant's benefit will be calculated based on the state workers' compensation rules for the state in which the claimant works. However, the benefit will be paid from DOL appropriated funds instead of being paid through a state program. This method of payment provides equity for workers within a state and ensures that those without a willing payer will be compensated. Other co-sponsors of the amendment include: Charles Grassley (R-IA), Pete Domenici (R-NM), George Voinovich (R-OH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mike DeWine (R-OH), James Talent (R-MO), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Christopher Bond (R-MO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Patty Murray (D-WA).